While planning for our upcoming trip I constantly read reviews about how touristy the Aglarve was and how we wouldn’t be able to find authentic Portuguese cuisine. However, after eating at a few places this past weekend I think that the food scene at the Algarve is fantastic and appeared to have plenty of places for some fairly authentic selections. Here’s a review of four places we ate and drank at over the past weekend and what you can expect from those restaurants.
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1. Gran Via Tapas Bar (Albufeira)
After learning that our #1 restaurant was going to be closed for the entire weekend, we had to get out and find an alternative for our first night in the Algarve. So we dropped into the Gran Via Tapas Bar for a couple of beers (€3.50 for a large beer) and to get some good dining recommendations. The owner of the bar was quite the character.
He was extremely friendly with a love for 80s music and didn’t hesitate to show off some of his interesting dance moves. After offering us a couple of complimentary shots and chatting it up a bit, he recommended that we try out the restaurant below. I suggest dropping into this bar just for a couple of drinks and maybe enjoy a little bit of 80s music. If you do want to grab a bite I did see them serving up some pretty delicious-looking and smelling trays so it might be a good idea to stick around for some tapas.
2. O Zuca (Albufeira)
We were referred to O Zuca and I couldn’t have been happier to try out this restaurant. It was cheap and the food was of very high quality. Brad had the grilled seabass for €11 and I went with the piri piri chicken €7.50. Both were exceptional! The seabass was perfectly seasoned and the piri piri chicken was great as well. (If you’re new to this region and coming from the United States, be prepared to deal with fish and chicken bones at pretty much any restaurant you go to.)
For two beers and the two and our meals it was only €21.70 and was one of the cheapest options we came across in the Algarve.
3. Bahia Beach Bar (Lagos)
This “beach bar” is also a restaurant with great food and beautiful open surroundings located right on the sandy beach. You walk across a boardwalk to access the bar (don’t get it confused with the bar right next door) and once you walk in you’re greeted by very friendly staff and servers.
For drinks we went with the white sangria for €13 a pitcher. It was my first time with white sangria so I didn’t have much to compare it to but I loved it! It was very fruity but still stronger than some of the other sangria we’d had and was full of different flavors and apple and orange slices along with berries.
As for food, we actually had our best meal of our entire trip here. It was a tapas platter for two for only €19.90. The tapas platter comes with seven different types of tapas and they differ day-to-day depending on the day’s fishing haul and the chef’s choice so you don’t always know what you’re going to get but I don’t see how you couldn’t love the tapas here.
Our platter had chorizo, steak, zucchini, squid, octopus, homemade hummus, mushrooms, peppers, olives, prawns, crab, and some kind of amazing cheese. With or without bread, these items were cooked perfectly and packed with flavor, especially the crab and the octopus. We’d just been blown away by tapas in Madrid about a moth ago but these were even better than the ones we’d tried in Spain!
4. Prazeres Restaurante (Albuferia)
I’ve decided to start including the places we weren’t completely fond of in addition to the great restaurants. Because we had so much success with out first recommendation we decided to take the word of some more locals to find another great restaurant. Unfortunately, the restaurant didn’t live up to the hype.
I ordered the shrimp and squid kebab (€13.50) just to try something a little different and Brad went with the tuna steak (€12.50). The tuna steak was cooked a bit too much in my opinion and soaked in the juices so much that it seemed to have lost its tuna taste. It just wasn’t very good. My shrimp and squid was okay but nothing very special.
We also decided to try the “green wine” that’s a Portugal speciality. (The wine’s not actually green but made from “green” grapes that aren’t fully ripe, hence the name.) I probably should’ve tried the red wine version but nonetheless we went with the white wine. It was okay and interesting to try but again didn’t really blow me away.
We walked away from this restaurant with a €43 tab and not really too impressed with our meals. I don’t want to bash this place because the food wasn’t terrible, just not very good. Also, the service was great and the place does have plenty of good reviews on Trip Advisor and from locals so we could’ve just caught it at the wrong time.
I don’t profess to be an expert on authentic Portuguese cuisine but from my traveling experience you can often get a sense of how local the foods are by the atmosphere in the restaurants and by talking to your servers about the foods offered. To me, all of these places felt pretty authentic and at the very least the first three places were some of the best eating and drinking experiences we’ve had in Europe so I give them a ringing endorsement.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.